Hang Me Up to Dry
A/N: This chapter was written before I got sick. I'm doing a lot better and I appreciate all the well wishes. I am always grateful for the reviews that I get. Anyway, posting this up because it was already done. I can't find chapter eighteen but it should be in my computer somewhere. Again, thanks to my fave beta, Lupin for all her help.
Song Recommendation: Stormy Weather by Etta James
Helga sat at the salon, waiting for her appointment as she watched Rhonda get her own hair cut. Princess had decided to kidnap her for a girl's day and while it was nice to get pampered, Helga was sure to find out what kind of favor it would cost her eventually. An hour later, they were coming out with a new hair style. Helga had gone for thicker bangs and layers while Rhonda had extensions put in with some highlights.
"So, darling," Rhonda murmured, brushing the hair out of her eyes. "How is dear Brainy?"
"I've only gotten a couple of letters from him," Helga replied, rubbing her arm. "He's doing okay."
"Is he... depressed?"
"I haven't asked," Helga's voice turned firm. "And if he was, I wouldn't say. It's his business."
"Of course," Rhonda wasn't fazed. "I just was wondering if he was coming back to school."
"Probably for Prom," she replied. "He promised."
"Are you going to go together?"
"He hasn't asked me."
"Oh, that would be adorable! Simply adorable... except..."
"Well, " Rhonda stared at her. "What about Arnold?"
"Football-head? What about him?"
"Come on, Helga. We can all see how you two feel about each other," Rhonda smiled patronizingly.
"That's ridiculous," Helga hissed. "We're friends."
"You should ask him out," Rhonda teased.
"Is this why you asked me to hang out," Helga asked dully.
"No, I genuinely wanted to spend time with you, my grouchy old friend. Let's get some lunch, I'm starved."
"Are we getting some simply divine finger-sandwiches?"
"You are too hilarious."
They found a small cafe that offered a range of simple food that they could snack on while they talked about the most recent gossip. It seemed that the reason Lila and Sid had stopped dating was because her father had not approved the rocker-type lifestyle that Sid lived. However, they were dating secretly and things were going well for them. Sadly enough, the pressure would eventually make them crack but it was up for debate of when it would actually happen.
Harold and Big Patty were taking a break from the relationship to evaluate what they truly wanted. Patty wanted to become a pediatrician while Harold wanted to stay and become a butcher. They had had many arguments about that, among other things. Rhonda had suggested that things were not all that well in the bedroom either.
"And what about you, Princess? Are you and Curly dating?"
"Actually, we're not," she shrugged. "I mean, we slept together a couple of times but... there's no real attraction there for me."
"And he's not taking it that well?"
"Well, he got laid," Rhonda snorted in a most unlady-like fashion. "He's not too heartbroken."
"So it's not going to be one of those ugly duckling kind of deals?"
"He's become a friend."
"Sucks for him," Helga played with her egg salad. "Any conquests?"
"Right now, I'm a little burned out on boys," Rhonda laughed. "Maybe I'll try girls."
"If this whole thing was to get me naked in your bedroom for sex, you're going to have to try harder," Helga snickered.
"Oh dear, mother would not approve," she grinned, sipping on her iced lemonade. "We need to get going. I booked us some manicures."
The afternoon flew by as Rhonda let her know about the camping trip to her lake house in the upcoming week as they picked out stuff to try on in the dressing rooms. They had mocha lattes courtesy of Helga's wheedling and finally finished up at the opera for a showing of Carmen. Helga couldn't help but rememberthat bitch Ruth and Arnold's gigantic boner for her. Rhonda had gotten them premium seats with surround sound and it was excellent being there. Helga pulled out her phone while Rhonda had gone to the bathroom and checked her messages. With a wide grin, she realized that Arnold had texted her.
A: Hi, Helga. How are you?
H: I'm fine. I just remembered something.
A: Is it embarrassing?
H: Extremely .
A: What is it...?
H: Remember Ruuuuth?
A: Oh god.
A: I can't believe you remember that. How?
H: Rhonda kidnapped me with shopping, manicures, haircuts and tickets to Carmen.
A: Sounds like a terrible day. And how was Carmen?
H: Wonderful. Awesome. I wish I could still do opera.
A: You still can, I'm sure.
H: I'm too old to get into the business. Besides, I'd have to re-train. No thanks.
A: :-p You still sing amazingly.
H: Yes, I know. I'm just a fascinating human being. It took you way too long to realize this, you know.
A: I suppose so. I always knew you were fascinating and amazing.
A: Any chance I can take you out tonight for a late night ICEE?
H: I'm gonna have to think about it, football-head.
A: Playing hard to get?
H: Something like that...
A: Then I await at your command.
H: I like the sound of that. :)
Helga put her phone away as Rhonda sat down next to her with two bottles of water in her hands. Tossing her one, they got comfortable and watched the rest of the opera. Helga couldn't help but be reminded of Curly in a pair of tights and cape. She could almost remember the song they sung.
Helga tiredly wiped her face with a napkin as she looped through the tables, placing down drinks and collecting money and empty glasses. There seemed to be an unending amount of guys walking in and out that night. Helga could barely keep up as she went back and forth to the bar with orders and dishes to wash. That wasn't even the worst; guys were getting quite friendly. As long as they kept their hands on their laps and table, she didn't have a problem with their words.
It was almost three by the time Helga got off and she was exhausted. Stan was unable to give her a ride home as he was heading the opposite way. He invited her to go dancing with some of his friends but she could barely focus. Helga yawned and knew that it was a night to walk home. Bob hadn't come through with the offer of a car and now she was stuck taking late shifts since one of the girls had come down with mono. Changing into some pants in the back, Helga pulled out her pepper spray and tied her hair back into a bun. Her bag swung over her shoulder as she walked out into the dark night. There were a few skeazy guys by the doorway but they were smart enough to stay away.
When Helga got home, it was empty as usual. Miriam's promise to be a better mom had been a bunch of bullshit as she had predicted. However, as she heated up some food in the fridge, she heard a soft yawn and out of nowhere, Olga appeared from the living room.
"What the hell," Helga cried, already ready with a knife in hand. "Why didn't you call?"
"I did, baby sister!"
"No you didn't," she pulled out her phone and frowned. "Okay, yes you did."
"See? I told you so," Olga yawned. "You are home so late!"
"Oh," Olga murmured. She glanced at the microwave and sighed. "I made dinner. It's in the fridge."
The conversation turned awkward as they really didn't have much to say to each other. It was obvious that Miriam wasn't around enough to explain to Olga what was going on in her or her daughter's life. They bareness of the refrigeration had sent Olga grocery shopping when she got there. And she had also scrubbed down whatever she thought was dirty. While Helga fiddled with the lasagne on her plate, Olga sat down and waited a moment.
"Spit it out! I'm tired!"
"Baby sister, I'm getting married..."
"... To WHO?"
"My anthropology professor," Olga smiled brightly. "His name is Bill. We've been dating for a year and he proposed a month ago!"
"Oh god," Helga groaned. "Is he allowed to date his college students?"
"It's not exactly approved," Olga laughed. "But I'm not his student, not anymore. I graduated last semester."
"And he's not a total douche-bag?"
"Nope, he asked me to marry him twice," Olga sighed. "This was the third time and I finally said yes."
"Well," Helga paused, looking confused. "I'm guessing you're happy."
"So happy, baby sister... so happy."
"Well, are you going to be staying here long?"
"Actually," Olga grinned widely. "We're having a big dinner this Friday where I can introduce him. I want you to bring a little date."
"Oh god," Helga groaned. "Is Miriam okay with this?"
"Oh yes, mummy and daddy are so excited!"
"I can only imagine."
Arnold checked his phone twice and saw that Helga had not throughout her work shift. Impatient to see her but unwilling to push her, he was about to call Gerald to go play a game of basketball when there was a knock on his door. Confused, he went over and opened the door to see Lila standing there in the cutest white frill of a dress and gorgeous locks that tumbled over her shoulders as though there was a commercial being filmed behind her. Arnold had to admit that she had always had been the picture of femininity to him. Blinking once, he opened the door wider and invited her in.
"Hi, Lila. It's nice to see you!"
"Oh Arnold, it is ever such a pleasure to see you," she smiled brightly. "I'm sorry I didn't call. I just was in such a state to see you today."
"Of course. You are one of my dearest friends," Lila played with a lock of her hair.
"Right," Arnold crossed his arms over his chest. "Stop playing games, Lila. What's going on?"
"Why, nothing! I can't come and see you?"
"You didn't bother doing that when we were dating," Arnold pointed out. "Do you need a favor?"
"Why... you always see right through me," Lila blushed heavily.
"I've dated you. I know you."
"Arnold... dated," Lila bit her lip. "Do you think we could try again?"
"What, dating? Are you okay, Lila?"
"Arnold, answer the question."
"Why now," Arnold gaped, absolutely shocked. "I thought you were dating Sid."
"Well, that doesn't seem to be an option anymore."
"Okay... well, Lila... I'm sorry but I can't."
"You don't want me," she asked softly.
Arnold winced as Lila turned her puppy dog eyes at him, filled with tears that he knew were genuine. There was nothing fake about it, which was one of the things he loved so much about her. Every time he needed advice that wasn't solved by Fuzzy Slippers and Gerald, she was there to help him. Surprised, he felt her arms wrap around his neck and without even a warning, she kissed him.
It was warm and pleasant, just like her. But something was missing that he couldn't quite place. Her hair tickled his nose and he felt her frailty as more of a hindrance than something that appealed to him. Before she tried anything else, Arnold gently pried her off him and held her hands, which were so soft and smelled of strawberries. He kissed them and let them fall.
"Lila, I'm sorry but I can't do this," he said firmly.
"But... why," Lila whispered. "I'm ever so confused."
"You're just looking for someone to fill Sid's place. And that's not fair to you, to him, or to me."
"It wouldn't be for a little while," Lila cried, looking desperate. "I just need someone to love me!"
"Oh Lila," Arnold murmured, pulling her close. "No you don't."
"I know Sid loves me but he won't pretend for my daddy," Lila sobbed.
And so Arnold was told the story of her father and his judgmental attitude towards Sid. It wasn't only the long hair and torn up clothes but the fact that he didn't come from a wealthy family. The fact that Helga had been sent to another country because of him also fell into place. Sid had been turned into the Big Bad Wolf and Lila was the virginal Red Riding Hood. Lila wept innocently and Arnold couldn't help but think at how delicate and perfect she had to do everything. It was almost irritating. But being a good friend, he went downstairs and brought up some chocolate ice cream with a cherry on top.
"I am so embarrassed for throwing myself at you," Lila whispered, hiding her face with her hands.
"Well, it certainly made me feel better about myself," Arnold teased, rubbing her shoulder. "It's okay, I understand. And if I wasn't seeing someone-"
"Oh my gosh," she whispered, looking mortified. Still, her curiosity piqued. "... who is it?"
"Shit," Arnold said, wincing. "I'm not supposed to say anything about it. She wants to keep it quiet until she's comfortable with the idea."
"Comfortable? That doesn't sound very good," Lila raised an eyebrow. "Can I guess who it is?"
"I'd rather you didn't," Arnold muttered, blushing heavily.
"I wouldn't say anything, Arnold. I promise."
"Is it... Sheena?"
"I heard she is rooting for her own team."
"I must have forgot. Hmm, is it Gerald?"
"That's an affair," Arnold replied, poking at her tickle spot to which she squealed.
"Is it … Rhonda?"
"Not on your life."
"Harold would kill me. And I truly mean that. He would kill me."
"Hmm," Lila paused and grinned almost fiendishly. "Is it Nadine?"
"Nope," Arnold grinned.
"N-no," Arnold coughed nervously. "Try again."
"Well if it isn't her, you must have a very big crush on her at least," Lila grinned. "I have to get going before curfew."
"Good night, Arnold. Please tell Helga that I'm happy for you two."
Arnold watched Helga sneak in through the window-hatch of his roof with deftness that he wasn't sure anyone could possess. Carefully, she stepped on the ground and sat on his bed with a paper bag and her purse in one hand and an umbrella in the other. The clouds were storming above them and Helga had learned from those many times when she had been caught without one. Arnold smiled and brushed away her shaggy hair, tipping her chin up for a small kiss. He felt her pull away in embarrassment and moved to the desk to cover the heavy blush on her cheeks.
"I-I br-brought some burgers and fries. And I had no idea that sweet potato fries were that good," Helga glanced at him and watched him approach her. "What?"
"Maybe," she huffed. "Shut up and put in the movie."
"You know," Helga threw up her hands. "Making me all nervous and junk."
"Helga, I'm not doing anything."
"You totally freakin' are, CRIMINY!"
"Helga, you're overreacting,"Arnold tried not to grin. "It's just a date."
"Just a date? Isn't this our first date?"
"Oh," Arnold paused. "Yes."
"Then it isn't just a date, football-head."
"I suppose you're right, Helga."
"I'm always right."
"Sure," Arnold took her hand and refused to let it go when she tried to pull away. "Helga, this isn't going to work if you keep trying to avoid any affection I give you."
"I'm sorry," Helga flinched visibly. "I-I didn't mean it."
"Hey, hey, it's okay," Arnold took her hand and kissed it gently. "We'll take it slow, okay?"
"I don't... know," Helga looked away from him. "I've never really had a relationship that wasn't just about sex."
"Well, this'll be the first," he murmured, letting her hand go. "And tell me if I'm moving too fast for you."
"Arnold, you're seriously a saint."
"I hope not," he said, grinning fiendishly.
Helga laughed and caught him by the collar, yanking him closer as she jumped up and kissed him on the mouth. Arnold was surprised at her actions, knowing that she feared any sort of affection, scared that it came with a huge price tag. But as she dug her fingernails into his skin and pressed up against him, she was getting over it pretty quick. Arnold wrapped his arms around her and returned the fervor until they had to come up for air.
"I'm so glad you're a better kisser than you were in grade school," Helga teased.
"Well, I had lots of practice."
"I'm joking, Pataki."
"I'm not jealous," she muttered, turning pink.
"Come on, dork. You wanted to watch the Muppets, right?"
"Jason Segal can have my babies," Helga said seriously.
"Can Amy AD-"
"I'm not going to have to wear a chain collar, am I," Arnold asked.
"Not if you behave," Helga replied, sitting on his bed.
"I didn't know you were that kinky."
"Don't get me started," Helga curled up next to him. "Now shut up, Jason is talking."
"Whatever you say, Helga."